JOHN FOWLER & CO LTD BREWERS - Margaret Black
A brief account of the brewing process
and work in the Brewing Room
"Famous since the '45"
- so proclaimed the adverts. Perhaps this is what First attracted
Mr Taylor. the Canadian, who decided to take over Fowler's Brewery
in 1960. together with McLennan & Urquhart of Dalkeith. Aitken
of Falkirk, Geo Younger of Alloa and three Edinburgh breweries.
Murray's. Aitchison's and Jeffrey's. At first they were known
as Northern Breweries, but the name has changed a few times over
the years due to amalgamations and takeovers. At present they
form part of Bass pie although they all shut over thirty years
ago with the exception of Jeffrey's which was the last to close.
Like all breweries. Fowler's was responsible for many aspects
of the industry to the Customs & Excise Officer and his immediate
superior, the Surveyor. The Head Brewer/Joint Managing Director
was in charge of everything from the buying ofraw materials to
the finished product and distribution.
The main materials with which he was concerned were barley, malt
and hops. Barley merchants from Edinburgh brought samples to the
Brewing Room with information regarding price and estimated quantity.
A deal was made. providing the sample was up to standard and our
own lorries collected the barley from farms in East Lothian beginning
in August, if it had been a good summer.
The Head Maltman took random samples from each lorry up to the
Brewing Room where the moisture content was taken and again after
it had been dried to the required moisture prior to malting. We
provided all our own malt with the exception of special malts
such as Crystal and Enzymic. The Barley Flakes were supplied by
MeGregor of Leith. Also. at this time one hundred barleycorns
were put into holes in a dish, covered with dampened sand and
placed in a glass bowl containing a small quantity of water. This
was examined a few days later and as the dish contained one hundred
holes, the percentage growth could be seen at a gIance.
The Hop Merchants were also busy at this time making up samples
which they brought up from their London offices or posted with
the relevant information. Most of the hops were of the Fuggles
and Goldings variety and were grown mostly in Kent and Worcester,
although a small quantity came from Sty'ria. a province in S.
E. Austria. They were later delivered by the railway lorry, prior
to that by the railway horse and cart. Hops were packed in large
sacks called "Pockets" each weighing, on average. I
'A cwts. and each pocket was numbered. The deliveries were checked
against the Weight Lines, previously received, and entered in
the Hop Book. As each pocket was used. the gain or loss was recorded.
It is worth mentioning that before the Weight Lines were printed
or typed they were written in beautiful copper-plate writing,
something that is not seen nowadays.
The actual brewing process started in the Mash House and this
book was made up every Friday for the following week. so that
the foreman knew in advance what to prepare, e.g. which hops had
to be brought over from the store and the sugar from the Sugar
Store. The spent hops and draff were left behind in the Mash House
and the worts run to the Coolers and onwards to the Tun Room.
The draff was sold to the Brewers' Foods Supply who. in turn.
sold it mostly to farmers. The Tun Room housed all the Fermenting
Vessels and it was here that the brew was examined to make sure
it was the correct gravity. The instrument used was called a "saccharometer".
A dip stick was used to measure the dry inches in the vessel and
from this the number of bulk gallons could be worked out. This
was the figure on which the duty was calculated, but first it
had to be converted to standard barrels. Yeast was added at this
stage and after other procedures had been carried out the brew
was then transferred to what was known as "the squares".
From there it was filtered and sent to the Tank Room to be stored
until it was required for bottling or put into containers and,
of course, a proportion was sent to the Cellars for cask beer.
Samples were taken at every stage to the Brewing Room where the
colour was taken using a tintometer. Yeast samples had also to
be prepared for examination under the microscope.
Every brewery kept a Brewing Book and Fowler's was no exception.
This contained all the necessary information regarding each brew,
e.g. quantities and type of all malts, Scottish. English. Crystal.
Enzymic etc.. barley flakes, sugars and hops. the bulk gallons
for duty and standard gallons. A formula was used to calculate
the extract and this was also recorded because of its importance
to the brewers. The answer had to be within certain parameters.
If not. it was reported to the brewers for investigation.
The Sugar Book was another important book as this contained the
types of sugar used each day and all the purchases. It could be
examined by the Excise Officer at any time and always without
prior notice. Invert sugar was purchased from John Walker of Greenock
who were taken over by Talc & Lyie. while other types came
from English firms including Collet's of Gloucester and a family
firm. Lambert of London. Priming sugars and caramel were dissolved
in small collecting vessels marked C.V. I and C.V.2 unlike the
fermenting vessels in the Tun Room which were marked F.V. I upwards.
Duty had to be paid on the bulk gallons collected and again converted
to standard gallons, and the gravity was very high indeed in the
two collecting vessels.
All manner of other records were kept. For instance, bins were
situated at each stage of the bottling process (filling, crowning,
pasteurising, labelling, crating) into which the cullel (broken
glass) was placed and the percentage loss for each day worked
out. This cullct was returned to Alloa Glass Co from whom the
bottles were purchased and the price obtained was 7/6d. a ton.
The Factory Inspector's Register had also to be kept up-to-date.
All accidents had to be recorded and boys and girls starting work
medically examined and the Register signed by the appointed Factory
Doctor that they were Fit.
In addition to normal duties each day. weekly, monthly and yearly
returns had to be made e.g. on Mondays the wages were calculated
and the Figures sent to the cashier, on Fridays certain materials
were ordered, the Beer Duty once per month but twice if there
was a change at llic Budget: the Licence Duty every 30 September.
At the end of each month materials used had to be costed. average
gravity worked out and certain other information had to be given
to the Head Brewer/Managing Director and Assistant Brewer.
On the First of the month the Brewery horse was taken care of
and his foodstuffs ordered. These were still rationed after the
war ended. Sugar was also rationed and permit to purchase was
granted by the Excise Officer. A formula using a percentage (this
varied) of the sugar used in the datum year was used.
As all the tradesmen came under the jurisdiction of the Head Brewer
(Engineers. Painters. Coopers. Joiners, Garage Mechanics), the
purchases for their departments were recorded by them in a Goods
Received Book. These entries were later transferred to a huge
Purchase Ledger and on receipt. the invoice passed for payment.
After the war, possibly about 1948, lorrymen and shiftworkers
were allowed extra sugar and tea. These were still rationed and
we had to apply to the Ministry of Food for the permits.
A few years before the Brewery closed it was modernised from end
to end starting in the Boilerhouse and Finishing in the Bottle
Beer Store. A new office building was also built. We were given
a Licence number and a Priority Symbol to carry out the work.
The new boiler was installed in 1947 with a steaming capacity
of 10.000 Ibs. per hour, replacing the smaller boiler, capacity
5.000 Ibs. per hour. installed in 1909. The Mash House had new
coppers and the Tun Room was completely rebuilt with new stainless
steel fermenting vessels and the walls tiled from top to bottom.
This was indeed a showpiece and even many years later was the
talking point of all who had seen it. The wasted space between
the Mash House and Tun Room was used to build a shower for the
men, especially those who worked in the Mash House, and a table
and chairs were provided so that they could use it as a canteen,
albeit very small. A small laboratory was built near the Tun Room
and some duties were transferred from the Brewing Room because
of the convenience e.g. the tasting sessions. A new modern microscope
was purchased and installed in the dark room off the laboratory.
Some points of interest which come to mind:
Clogs were worn, but were replaced by rubber boots
Once a year one of the lorries was driven into the Lammermuir
Hills where heather was gathered to make into brushes. These,
dipped in a mixture of sand and water, were used to scour the
coppers. All other brushes were bought from the Blind Asylum in
The coal for the boiler and old offices came from Prestonlinks
Toilet soap and soft soap in 28 Ib. drums were delivered from
Jas Mellis & Co. the local soap manufacturer.
Ropes and tarpaulins from Gourock
Bottles were purchased from The Alloa Glass Co and PortIand Glass
Labels were printed by W R Annan, a family Firm in Edinburgh
Boxes were made in Aberdeen by Cordiner, another family Firm
Chemicals and cleaning agents supplied by J A Sheriffs. Granlon
First-aid supplies came from Glasgow
As you can see, and this is only a fraction. Fowler's purchased
what they could, locally and throughout Scotland from Aberdeen
to Alloa, Alloa to Ayrshire. Granton to Gourock.
We were the First in Scotland to bottle Carting Black Label which
was brought up from Sheffield in Tankers. They stood on the north
side of the Brewery on the shore and Vn H.P. motor had to be used
to pump it up to the Bottling Hall.
We were one of the First to use stainless steel containers for
conditioned beer but wooden casks were still used so the usual
stocks of spiles, vents, shives, staves, shocks, hoop iron and
chimb white continued to be held in the cooperage.
The Head Cooper had the all-important job of ringing the bell
in the yard at the beginning and end of each day, also for the
dinner break and pundy breaks (beer allocations) in between.
Before biro pens. we used plain nibs and inkwells so blotting
paper was a necessity. There were no calculators so everything
was worked out on paper and all available scrap paper was kept
for this purpose.
At one time we worked on Saturday mornings from 9 to 12 noon and
also on Christmas Day. Office Staff were given a bonus each year
and this was later extended to include everybody. It was always
understood that Fowler's was the first in the country to introduce
this profit-sharing scheme.
On the last weekend in July the brewery closed. We were given
Saturday morning off and the Monday was an old Prestonpans holiday
which had been carried on. At this time we were given £2.
which was a lot of money then.
The Weight Tables learned at school had to be forgotten - at least
during working hours. 112 Ibs. = I cwl.. 28 Ibs. = I qr. did not
apply in the Brewing Room. 2 cwls. (224 Ibs.) sugar = I qr. 3
cwls. (336 Ibs.) malt = I qr. 4 cwls. (448 Ibs.) barley = I qr.
3 bags barley flakes ^ I qr. These figures were used to calculate
the Extract etc.
Water was charged at the rate of l/3d. for first 8.000 gins. and
the remainder at l/- per 1.000 gins.. and rent of meter was 15/6d.
Great importance was placed on beer losses and every drop had
to be accounted for from Brewing to Packaging and the percentage
loss worked out at each stage. Quite a simple method was used
at Prestonpans but when we moved to Edinburgh a new method drawn
up by two Work Study Officers had to be used. It was fairly complicated
and a lot depended on the correct information being supplied to
the Brewing Room.
Like all companies producing goods of whatever kind. Fowler's
had a Forwarding or Despatch Dept.. an Accounts Dept.. a Cashiers
Dept. and. as the company grew. a Managed House Dept. and Stocktaking
Dept. There was also a team of travellers, each responsible for
the customers in his area. When the first Ford Populars were introduced
a few years after the war. a small fleet was purchased for their
use. However. I have only given a rough idea of what went on in
the Brewing Room. This also included secretarial duties being
carried out for head brewer/joint managing directory and assistant
Fowler's has been described as being "a lovely wee Brewery".
As far as cleanliness and hygiene arc concerned it was second
to none. There was always a very good rapport between the Brewing
Room and the Excise Officer, and merchants and travellers who
called. I think it is true to say that it was a happy environment.
At the time of the takeover we were informed on Mr Taylor's authority
that "there will be no changes", but we only remained
open for two years. Some employees were made redundant, others
given jobs in the new Head Office in Eglinton Crescent or in Murray's
which was still open. but that is another story!
Acknowledgement is made to Coevol. present owners of the former
Fowler's offices, for this photo showing the trade mark which
is set into the floor of the entrance hallway.